#30DaysOfBiking Day 8 – Elevated Wetlands & Dawes Road Library

It’s a long weekend in Canada this weekend and that means that we can expect public offices, including libraries to be closed, Friday, Sunday, and Monday for the Easter long weekend. But Saturday is normal and I decide to take advantage of today’s ride to visit a library that’s tricky to get to by transit.

The Dawes Road branch is not on a particularly busy road or in a densely populated neighbourhood so there’s no subway nearby subway service. Any transit route I would take there would be 50-60 minutes and include at least two buses and a subway. I know a bike will be quicker.

The weather is still cold today – just above freezing, though the wind has died down a little bit making it a little more bearable. I dip down into the ravine and head for the Taylor Creek trail which for me is my best route to locations in East York between O’Connor and Danforth.

On the way I’m sure to check out a little bit of art (that has been the theme so far). Today it’s “Elevated Wetlands“, an iconic set of large polystyrene containers filled with recycled plastics. In them, local plants are planted. Solar powered pumps provide water from the polluted Don River which filtered through the containers. Folks driving down the DVP or riding on the Don Trail often refer to them as either “Teeth” or “Elephants” – both of which are easy to see. From this angle the front one also looks a bit like an artistically rendered polar bear.

Despite the weather the park is still busy with families spending time outside together. Whether it’s here or the waterfront trail, whenever the trail is busy with pedestrians I view it like I hope drivers view me when I’m sharing the road with them. We’re all just trying to get where we’re going safely and without being hit. I slow down, don’t begrudge them the space or the fact that I have to slow down. When I have a chance to pass safely I do. No need to be upset about the delays – it’s all just part of safely sharing the space.

Before long, I’m there.

What would’ve taken me almost an hour to get to by bus, takes me 20 minutes exactly. Though my bike has no climate control, My effort has also made me warm. I park in front of the library and decide to have a look around before going inside.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that one of the things I often talk about is how great it is that it’s possible to quickly go from a busy city to a quiet and peaceful forest. In fact, it’s one of my favourite things about living here.

Something I haven’t talked much about is also how Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods. Usually I think of that in terms of big, densely populated areas: Chinatown, Agincourt, Forest Hill – each with their own feel. However, in other parts of the city, it is still possible to find your way to a small Ontario town right down to its being arranged along a main road – in this case, Dawes Road.

You have a small church, next to one of what I think of as the standard “East York Bungalow” which are so prevalent in this area.

The convenience store looks like it comes from my town growing up – right down to the truck parked out front. The only thing missing was a “redemption center” sign advertising that you could take your empties back here. I wonder if they still have videos available inside? I should have checked.

I wasn’t particularly hungry though I do like to stop to sample the food wherever I’m going. First up was Duffy’s which looked like it could have an excellent burger.

I went around to the back and it seemed like from the signs there was a huge focus on alcohol and less about the food which was a little pricey. I took a pass on this one.

Pizza sounds delicious but also not a great option for me as dairy can make me feel ill – it also looks more like a sit-down place where whole pies are sold rather than a neighbourhood pizzeria where it’s sold by the slice.

One other option remained:

This place, and the highrise peeking above it remind me that I’m still in Toronto. It’s a Filipino grocery store with hot table. It sounded good but as it was only 2°C outside, I’m not ready to start my “Takeaway Picnic” project (which actually is on my list – watch for it). So it was off to the library to see what was there.

The library itself, while having a modern exterior has a beige interior with light wood shelves, fluorescent lighting and drop tile ceilings that make me think it’s from the mid 80s. I’m shocked to read that it was actually renovated in 2002 – just two years after its exterior was renovated – which looks much more up to date. It was, however, built in 1976 so if you average 1976 and 2002 you get 1989. So maybe I’m right!

Photo via Google due to Toronto Public Library policy regarding interior photos

Still, “beige 80s” is not a negative for me. It means comfort and happiness and great nostalgic feelings. I’m only sad that I can’t go in the library office to play Olympic Decathlon on the TRS-80 Model 3 like I would in my school library back in 1983. Here there are computers, WiFi and all the modern comforts.

Also, being Toronto, there’s a great effort made toward inclusion. There is not just a children’s section but a Teen section. There are resources for literacy and English as a Second Language learning. There are also books and materials in Tamil, Bengali, and French available for check out.

Libraries – and really, all public spaces post-COVID are an odd mix of caution and normalcy. There is a sign on the door recommending mask wearing yet I am the only person inside wearing one. Plexiglas barriers are still up between librarians and patrons but again, no masks on the part of staff. No judgment at this point as the majority of folks have forgotten about the possibility of getting sick – but it’s more the juxtaposition. I’m hopeful that the conditions improve enough that eventually we end up better off rather than getting worse until the signs and barriers are once again important.

I pick up a couple of books, a book of Chris Hadfield’s photos from the International Space Station and a travel book by Paul Theroux, pack my bags and head home. On the route home I meander through the neighbourhoods of East York, a mix of the bungalows seen above, highrises and more and more large and newly renovated or built properties. Such is the current pace and style of change in our city.

And this library is no exception. Planning for a new library branch are in the works. If all goes as planned, I could be making a return visit to the new library in 2025 or 2026.

2 thoughts on “#30DaysOfBiking Day 8 – Elevated Wetlands & Dawes Road Library

    1. Right? I really started thinking about this when seeing Toronto cyclists online complaining about pedestrian behaviour on multipurpose paths. “Those walkers – they’re so slow and unpredictable. They don’t pay attention and I’m worried I might hit them! They shouldn’t be there!” A lightbulb went on then. Search for “walkers” and replace with “cyclists” and you don’t need to do any more editing. So now if I’m in a rush and don’t want to deal with pedestrians I choose another route. Otherwise I just wait until it’s safe and slowly pass. It’s easier than getting upset and makes everyone’s experience more pleasant.

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